There’s a certain kind of conversation that is particularly uncomfortable to have. And that’s coming from me – a woman who all of my patients know they can literally ask anything and get my true and honest response.
The conversation goes something like this:
Me: Good news! It’s not cancer.
Patient: Umm….it could have been cancer!?!?
Me: It’s fibroids.
What are fibroids?
While they’re not exactly a walk in the park either, fibroids are benign growths that develop from the muscle tissue of the uterus, as defined by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG).
And they’re incredibly common. It is estimated that 80 percent of all women will develop uterine fibroids by the age of 50, with black women being about 2-3 times more likely to have them. It’s possible those numbers are not high enough, considering that some women don’t experience symptoms.
But for those who do, you are not alone. Uterine fibroids are the most common pelvic tumor in women, and when they become a problem…trust me, you know.
Changes in your menstrual cycle, heavy bleeding, debilitating pain and pressure in your pelvic area, frequent urination, constipation, and back or leg pain are among the most reported symptoms
Location matters: A rundown of the types of fibroids
When it comes to the severity and/or presentation of symptoms, it’s like real estate. Location matters.
Here’s the breakdown:
Intramural fibroids are the most common type of fibroids, growing in the wall of the uterus.
Submucosal fibroids originate from underneath the uterine lining, causing the uterus to be crowded. The result is most commonly heavy bleeding and other more serious complications. There are three types: 0, which grows completely within the uterine cavity; 1, which extends less than 50 percent into the myometrium (which is the main part of the wall of the uterus); and 2, which extends 50 percent or more within the myometrium.
Subserosal fibroids grow outside of the uterus. As they grow, they can become painful due both to their size as well as the pressure they put on neighboring organs.
Pedunculated fibroids grow on small stalks inside or outside the uterus.
It is possible to have more than one type of fibroids, and sizes and speed of onset vary greatly in all types.
In addition to being more common in black women, they are more likely to develop fibroids at younger ages, have larger fibroids, have more fibroids, and experience more symptoms as a result.
I was diagnosed with fibroids when I was 33 and didn’t know it at the time, but that became the catalyst for who I have become. I tell my friends I love fibroids, and they give me the side eye. Because yes, fibroids are little jerks. But they are the reason I decided to become an OB-GYN and I am on a mission to put them in their place.
One of the ways I’m choosing to do that is to do my part in helping educate my community so you know everything there is to know about this incredibly common, but also totally treatable health issue.
Stay tuned for three more parts to this Fibroid Facts series, focusing on symptoms and the effects fibroids have on life, psychological effects, and types of treatment.
In the meantime, you know where to find me if you have any questions!